LOS ANGELES: Giannis Antetokounmpo produced a scintillating 40-point masterclass but it was not enough to stop LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers from claiming a thrilling victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
Antetokounmpo’s superb display, which also included nine rebounds and three assists, threatened to overwhelm the Cavs as they sought to bounce back from Sunday’s shock loss to the Atlanta Hawks.
But 30 points from James and 32 points from Kevin Love helped the Cavs hang on for a 124-119 victory at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
James and Antetokounmpo seemed locked in their own personal duel for long periods of an absorbing contest and finished with similar figures.
Later, James admitted the 22-year-old Athens born Antetokounmpo — nicknamed “The Greek Freak” —was all but impossible to defend against.
“He attacked non-stop for however many minutes he was on the floor,” James said.
“You got to put multiple bodies in front of him and then when you do put multiple bodies in front of him, he’s still able to score. He’s great in transition and great getting at the rim.”
The high-scoring contest saw three other Cleveland players make double figures, with J.R. Smith posting 20 points and Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade grabbing 10 apiece.
Antetokounmpo, meanwhile, was backed by 22 points from Malcolm Brogdon and 20 from Khris Middleton.
Cleveland improved to 5-6 with the win, while the Bucks fell to 4-6.
Elsewhere Tuesday, Harrison Barnes poured on 31 points as the Dallas Mavericks made a mockery of the form book with an upset over the Washington Wizards.
The Mavs, owners of a league-worst 1-10 record heading into the game, made sure of a 113-99 win after producing a late fourth quarter run.
Dennis Smith posted 22 points and Wesley Matthews added 14 as the Mavericks snapped a six-game losing streak in style.
Dallas had led 64-53 at halftime and opened up a 16-point lead at one stage in the second half.
However, they were given a scare when Washington closed to 90-88 with 9:09 remaining.
Yet Dallas responded with a 15-5 run to clinch a deserved win for the Texas franchise.
“We came into the game with a great collective force and collective will,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said.
“We’ve been getting kicked around and it’s no fun. Tonight our guys drew a line in the sand and really brought things to another level defensively.”
Washington, however, were left ruing their inability to put up decent numbers, making only only 42.7 percent from the field against one of the league’s worst defenses.
The defeat was the Wizards’ third straight home loss and their fifth in seven games. Washington fell to 5-5 with the loss.
Wizards ace John Wall, who put up 23 points and 14 assists, blamed slack defending for the loss.
“You have to be able to guard in this league, and we haven’t done that at the beginning of this season,” Wall told reporters.
There was another upset in Sacramento, where the Kings—1-8 going into the game—stunned Russell Westbrook’s Oklahoma City Thunder by 94-86.
Triple-double king Westbrook was restricted to 20 points by a determined Sacramento defense. The Kings, meanwhile, shared the offensive load with four players making double figures, led by Buddy Hield with 21 points.
In Salt Lake City, Dario Saric had 25 points and Ben Simmons 16 as the Philadelphia 76ers sank the Utah Jazz 104-97.
In New York, Kristaps Porzingis scored 28 points as the Knicks staged yet another late rally to win, beating the Charlotte Hornets 118-113 at Madison Square Garden.